House of Discord by Sadiqa Peerbhoy

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When Sadiqa Peerbhoy said this to Akka-Acerbic –

What a sensitive and perceptive questionnaire! It made me rethink the book completely. Half the things you asked about I think I was not even aware when they crept in in the flow.‘ What an indulgence!

It is time to do the Happy Dance 😀 Read on!

‘House of Discord’ by Sadiqa Peerbhoy published by Readomania

A layered, riveting narrative that brings out the angst of a breaking dysfunctional family with the background of a burning Bombay. Because a crumbling city is an extended metaphor for a kin with conflict and change is the only true consort of life.

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1) The tough matriarch and the effete father are so relatable. They could be a part of any household or city. Why did you choose Mumbai (Bombay) and juxtapose the domestic squabbles with the riots? Because riots were rare whereas discord a regular feature.

Sadiqa: Mumbai is a city I grew up in and am very familiar with. It was for decades the only city in India where religious and racial tolerance ruled even when the North was in the grip of communal dissension. Bombay’s cheek by jowl apartment living promoted a cohesiveness and its commerce, business, and Bollywood glamour attracted people from all over India who then blended into its ethos.
Riots were relatively unknown in Bombay and when they did occur they caused fissures so deep that the effect still lingers. As I was attempting to locate the Deshmukhs where the outer discord was a reflection of the inner discord of the family I chose a city that I feel deeply for.

2)There are no villains or heroes in your novel, except the circumstances, which in turn bring out the best in each person. Out of the spectrum of characters you have created, who do you like the best? Why? And in hindsight, who do you think should have been fleshed out better?

Sadiqa: I do have a soft spot for Lokeshwari because I have known someone very like her. Her circumstances molded and shaped her. The weaker her husband got, the stronger she had to become to her own cost. The dynamics of that relationship was very interesting to explore. I also like the feisty Dhonduram. Since there are so many characters it was not possible to do justice to all but in hindsight, I think should I have given Adam more of a role in the family troubles and the denouement.

3) Please tell us more about the resident ghost. What rather who is the inspiration?

Sadiqa: The ghost is a young girl who died of heart failure and her presence is benign and reassuring for the family in troubled times. Perhaps she is a symbol of Barrot House itself clinging to times past and not letting go in the face of change. She is there for the romance and the touch of magic and gives venerability to a homestead that has seen so much that it is almost a character that faces the inevitable end of the road as all Bungalows fall into sighing debris sooner than later.

4) If the story were to leapfrog two decades hence, would the spinster daughter behave differently? Would she still wait for a groom to save her?

Sadiqa: Sarita is not just an old-fashioned girl. She, along with the others, is broken into submission by her all-powerful mother. Besides she is beset by several handicaps in the form of her scar and limp and stuttering so that whether it is 1900 or 2020 she would still lack the gumption to take her life in her own hands.

5)All things were transient. Change – the only true consort of life. What is one thing that you hope, that the reader definitely should surmise, after reading ‘House of Discord’. What is the underlying thought?

Sadiqa: Now that I go back and read the book I find a number of threads which came in unintentionally perhaps. The biggest take away is that trust and belief can overcome years of suspicion and shored up anger that can distort relationships. Also, that change is sad but inevitable and has to be accepted and adapted to for survival or you get crushed by its Juggernaut. The most obvious plea is for communal harmony in a city whose ethos is that of tolerance and acceptance of all who come to its shores.

6)How long did you take to write ‘House of Discord’? Are you a pen and paper person? Or do you start pounding on the keys straightway? 

Sadiqa: I write for about three hours in the mornings from 9 to 12..sometimes more when I am in the throes of finishing a book. Sometimes I write mentally in wakeful nights and then I am raring to hit my desk before it all vanishes. I enter straight in Microsoft Word- mostly a jumble of words and higgledy-piggledy sentences then correct them later. The editing is a long back-breaking process but the writing is fun as characters take on a life of their own and grow.

7)Do you feel that times have changed since 1992? For the worse or for the better? Does the famed spirit of Mumbai exist, any longer?

Sadiqa: I feel Mumbai has changed for the worse. It was always a money-driven city but it had a heart and a soul and a certain zest for life that left no room for people to recognize and define their differences. Mumbaiwallas were Mumbaiwallas and proud to be so despite the hard life of commuting, traffic, dirt, grime and the relentless monsoons. Now the fissures are very obvious. The much-lauded Spirit of Bombay is now more about survival and getting on with it rather than survival together as one people.

8) Are you a feminist? How do you imbue your write-ups with your belief system? Is it in your face or you would like the reader figure for self?

I am not a feminist at all. I glory in being a woman and enjoying my roles at wife and mother. I have never felt the need to be aggressive about my rights because I can get a more than level playing field through grace an charm…now dignity. My belief system seems to enter into my writing without a conscious effort. It comes from loving my characters so much that I want them to win and not have anything horrible happen to them.( I could not bear to let Lily get raped so she escaped the obvious)
I think, letting the reader absorb the underlying philosophy has far more impact. However, in HOD I do end by mentioning that the family is a metaphor for the city for the less perceptive reader because I do so want the torn fissured Mumbai to go back to being a family again.

9) What is your writing routine? What would be your message for young budding writers? How important is reading to improve one’s nascent craft?

I write from 9 to about 12 every day. It is important to stick to it even when going through a blocked phase. I have times when I get disgruntled and want to erase everything I have written. But reread after a few days later it does not appear quite so bad. I want to tell budding writers to suspend their critical faculties and withhold judgment till it is all over. We are not always the best judge of our writing…nor are most publishers who have an eye on what is saleable at the moment than good writing.
It is very very important to read far more than you write! Good books, bad books even tripe ….so you know what not to do. Good writing is the university that hones and inspires young writers. And nor should they to be disheartened with rejection. Just think that publishing is a harsh business and rejection just means that their name is not saleable yet.

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Coffee Waale

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On any wintry evening, the fave activity of our family is “Chalo Coffee Peeke aate!

That my friend is an open invitation to trouble. Because my pal, we do not stick to the tried and tested coffee joints as we are forever on an expedition to discover newer places.

Okay! What is the problem in that?‘ You might ask!

See my friend, first that scary looking menu. I haven’t yet reached the mind-boggling RHS of the menu card. The prices mentioned there are enough to buy a couple of  Happy-Meals. And here we get tiny samplers. Grin and bear!

Down South from where I come, Coffee is either Instant or Filtered. And if it is filtered it has be BRUed ( 😀  couldn’t resist that PJ ) Plus at the rate printed in that honourable menu, we could get a wedding party drunk on Kaapi

Now in these modern parlours of ‘(S)He Brews’, this humble brown concoction is divided into many mindboggling nomenclatures.

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Firstly, the smartly attired and English speaking Coffee Machine Handlers, hand you out that utterly captivating and colourful menu. Then when you look quizzical and terribly pained, unable to fathom as the English words begin to swim at you as Greek and Latin,  they tch-tch you mentally. Boy, you should see the pitiful looks they dish out. How dare these village hicks raid our pristine joints. Then they deign to explain the options, slowly and clearly, enunciating every single syllable, till you sport a comprehending look.

Then comes the hideous part! The types of beans to be blended for your cuppa poison and their perfect percentage so that the beans don’t clash but produce a harmony.

Coffea Arabica or Coffea canephora or Robusta! Phew!

After many robust trials and tribulations, I have come to the conclusion. I simply order my Cappucino with utter confidence and add four sachets of brown sugar ( 😀 Yup, you read it right! ). Make all the right noises, swirl the poison appreciatively, finish the contents soon enough and head out nodding! Did I forget mentioning Instagramming?

Life is sorted!

Mocha Nahin Chodhna Nahin to Latte Khaoge!

Marriage, Man and Mandir

A marriage of the year, Man on a sea-plane, Mandir beckons the Prince-Elect!

After what seemed aeons ( Would you believe it was just 49 days! The all-around, no-holds-barred vitriol was the actual culprit ), the curtains came down finally on the poll campaign, in the birthplace of the Mahatma. As the protagonists in this curtain raiser to the final act in 2019, sat at home, bone tired, nursing their fave poisons, mulling over their chances, they wondered if they had played their cards right. Also the moot point was did they do enough to secure their place at the poll hustings?

Some snippets –
Male-Alpha: I am the man with a plan, closed it big with my heroics on a sea-plane. They have to remember my smiling and waving visage, in crisp Khaddar, as I hung on oh so casually to the hanger. That will do Gujarat! That will do. You have been thy model to flaunt around. Always! Now bring me home.
Mom’s Prince in waiting: I’m almost the king! Only a tiny matter of a pending coronation. With Zabardast results that I predict, I will soon be singing a new RaGa. I have hit all the Mandirs with a vengeance. Our Minority-Appeasers tag will be shed ASAP and we will find favour with the Majority. Religion is the opium of the masses, you see!
Man in a video: This is a conspiracy. Please don’t sex it up and make me the fall-guy.
Man in the Muffler: We are watching! Like a Hawk!
Man on the road: They said development is around the corner and that fancy corner has just been a Mirage. I have had enough with my trysts with destiny. Now I get my voice to tell the world what I actually feel. I will certainly make sure. A Make-in-India, gone sour? Or did Demonetization and GST actually make a difference? Time will tell.

While all this churning happened in the protagonists’ minds, the rest of India, went cuckoo over the Wedding of the Year. Tired as we were of Murder, Maan-Haani, Mayhem, Morals, and Meandering Politics, the much-splashed pictures of this Marriage became our esoteric escape.
What is not to love here? Two highly talented Middle-class youngsters, who hit the top spot in their respective fields through sheer hard-work, who then decided to formalise their love, on an equal footing. Excellent role models for the next-gen. Enough to the warm the cockles of even the hardened!

A nicer note to end a mid-week! Amen!!

Padmavati – The Queen tells her story

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Take a break, read something nice and enjoy a whole new world of literature!‘ Thus exhorts @Readomania.

I did so and read ‘Padmavati – The queen tells her own story‘.

This epic tale has been superlatively penned by Sutapa Basu, who has a thirty-year old professional career as a teacher, editor,  author, poet and publishing consultant. Sutapa Basu describes herself to be a compulsive bookworm and an irrepressible story teller.

Most of us have read this story in our childhood. When so much is known, yet unknown about Padmavati, how far can a spinner stretch the same, within the fettering limitations? That too, without letting the readers’ interest sag? Sutapa Basu manages this difficult feat, adroitly.  Her infinite writing experience, comes to the fore, in making this literary outing, a tour de force. The tale is peppered with intricate details. With its vivid imagery, the setting almost becomes a fourth protagonist along with the loving king and husband Rawal Rattan Singh and the depraved Khilji.

For example: ‘An oval emerald, snugly nestling in tiers of frothy white lace, floated in the crushed silk of turquoise seas. It was the enchanted island of Singhaldweep, off the eastern coast of Bharatdesh.’

‘The fort of Chittor was laid out on its escarpments. Roughly oval in shape, it looked like a fat fish.’

The sensitivity with which Jauhar has been handled, gives the reader, an ample hint of what to expect.

In the centre of all the chaos, only one figure remained serene and motionless. As the gold, saffron and blue blaze made rings around her, rising higher and higher, slowly enclosing the New Queen, she was like a sculpture, absolutely still. Nothing seemed to touch her; not the torment, not the grief, not the fear. It defied all principles of logic. Where did a girl find such strength, not garnered even by the meditation of ascetics, to tolerate the torture of being burnt alive? Her dark silhouette, in lotus pose, palms folded, was a sublime sight.

Though Sutapa says her novel is a work of fiction,  Padmavati’s psyche has been explored so deeply, that she breathes out as a gentle and thoughtful soul.

We live in troubled times, where anything and everything could be termed as offensive and an affront to dignity. That’s why it makes more sense to read this, where the writer stretches at her creative horizons and yet remains true to the saga, adding a veneer of intellect, blended with divine grace to Padmavati.

Therein lies the beauty of this tale.

As Sutapa Basu says,

‘The jauhar took hardly a few minutes to extinguish Padmavati’s living mortality but gifted her with indelible immortality; a significant niche in the history of India. Time could not dim her charisma nor age wither her stunning beauty. For centuries to come, the supreme sacrifice of this legendary Queen of Chittor would attain a place of undying pride and honour in the hearts of all her country’s people.’

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The tale is narrated to Mrinalini, a cynical journalist who doesn’t believe the stirring saga – Will she come away convinced?

This question forms the crux of this absorbing tale. 

Wouldn’t you want to do the same? Find the Answers?

Look Outside Your Window

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This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

Dear Diary,

I am sitting near the window of my room and watching the traffic opposite. I’m waiting for mummy to come home. She went to the hospital today morning. I will tell you why.

As you know, mummy has been becoming fat.

Her tummy is growing too. So much that, she cannot see her toes also. Now I can paint her nails, as I like. She sits on the bed and holds her back. She is in pain, you see. Poppa gives her a nice massage. But only after closing the door. Poppa says, both grannies will feel bad, if they see. I don’t understand why? Mummy never closes the door when she presses Poppa’s back. Then Granny feels very happy!

I see a car coming in. It is not Mommy. It is the Aunty upstairs. She waves at me, I smile.

I’m hungry but I don’t want to eat. Didi made pasta for me. But without  Mommy’s stories, food tastes so bad!

I told you Na, Mummy went to the hospital today. She told me, she will get a new baby with her to play with me. I was so happy. I told Mommy, I will be a good girl and share all my toys with the new baby. I asked Mummy, if she will bring back a girl or a boy. Poppa smiled and said “Surprise”.

I like surprises.

From my window, I see Golu jumping in his garden. Golu likes playing with water. His house is decorated and he is dancing with Bosky, his dog. It is Golu’s birthday today. But he said, he will have the party on Sunday. I said ,”Ok and I will get the new baby too”. Golu’s Mommy laughed so much and kissed me. She gives such wet kisses.. But I don’t tell her that. She will feel bad.

Bosky reminds me of Granny. Granny doesn’t like Bosky. In the afternoon, when I was sitting here, trying not to cry, I saw our car coming in. I ran outside. Poppa had come to drop the Grannies. He hugged and told me, Mummy will come tomorrow with the new baby. He then went to collect Mummy’s clothes.

Both Grannies were so happy. They smiled and said, “ Pari, you have a brother! Thank God, not a sister.”  They went into kitchen to make kheer.

I didn’t understand only. Why ‘Thank God?’

A sister would have played with my toys na. Now we have to buy new boy toys.

There, I see Golu crying. He has fallen down and Bosky is licking his face. Let me go and help my friend.

I will tell you tomorrow about the new baby.

Bye for now.

Pari

 

Song of Life

“Doc? What do the reports Say?”

“Sam is suffering from Alzheimers Sree and you know that, it is a downward descent from here”

“Yes Doc. I knew his family history, never thought Sam would test positive so early in our lives.”

“Well he is nearing his sixties! Need help?”

“Not really, kids are grown up and settled. Thank God, we had them in quick succession! Will have to tell them too. Obviously things are going to be tough but I will manage, Doc.”

“Keep in mind, my suggestions and get Sam for regular check-ups”

“Will do Doc!”

*********************************************

“Hi Sree, I am sorry but the prognosis isn’t too good. His condition has deteriorated real fast. You will have to go in for a full-time nurse now. You cannot leave him alone. Inform the children too.”

“What is the point Doc? Even if they come, they will see a mere vegetable and not their loving father. It is heart-wrenching really. He has forgotten us all.”

“Sree, please don’t give up, having come so far!”

“Not to my dying day Doc! I keep showing old photos, talk about good old days, even though there is no response.”

“Don’t worry Sree. Take tomorrow off. After all, it is your birthday! I will cover for you, the least I can do for my dear dear buddy Sam!”

“No Doc! Without Sam, all days are same!!”

********************************************************************

“Good Morning Sam, This is your wife Sree. Remember me? Here, let me take you out in the Sun, where we can sit and read the papers while we have our morning tea! Like the good old times”

“What is it Sam? Why are you holding my hand so tightly?”

“HaaapppyyyyyBuddddayyyyy Srrrrrrrrr”

And Sam closed his eyes….And Sree crumpled in agony!

While Phil Collins hauntingly crooned somewhere nearby.

How can I just let you walk away

Just let you leave without a trace?

When I stand here taking every breath with you,

You’re the only one who really knew me at all

How can you just walk away from me

When all I can do is watch you leave?

‘Cause we’ve shared the laughter and the pain

And even shared the tears

You’re the only one who really knew me at all

So take a look at me now

Well there’s just an empty space

And there’s nothing left here to remind me

Just the memory of your face

Ooh, take a look at me now

Well there’s just an empty space

And you coming back to me is against the odds

And that’s what I’ve got to face

I wish I could just make you turn around

Turn around and see me cry

There’s so much I need to say to you

So many reasons why

You’re the only one who really knew me at all

30 Minutes Timer To Just Write

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This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

30 Minutes timer to write

To write whatever comes to your mind, without the worry of corrections and paying attention to grammar. It is a cardinal sin, one part of me screams.

This from someone who wrote -Florence Nightingale was a promiscuous lady ( I thought this was some kickass word ).

About 4 years back, as i struggled with a major disease, i started writing these lil daily snippets on facebook. Then gingerly ventured into story writing. One fine day, a mail came asking for permission to print a story of mine – Awright! No one fools in June right? That is an April Trick. Turned out the mail was as true as sunrise.

One thing led to another and now i feel incomplete unless i write something and unleash on the poor unsuspecting world. How they react to it? Well that is the thing about fb. It does announce to the world when so and so become friends but when someone unfriends you, you wouldn’t even know. So in the comforting bliss of my ignorance, I flood the cyber-space, that they are eagerly lapping it up (shh- even if you are not, don’t say it!)

But these days, there is a ritual to be followed once you decide to write your quota of 400 words.

  1. Charge your Mac
  2. Check into fb – shower the like/love on posts you love and like ( yeah it is the other way round) – hoping that you will be showered with similar love. Fingers crossed.
  3. Now that Amazon Prime has been picked at 11:30 pm on the last day of the 499/- offer, check if any new shows/movies have been added. Curse self for not seeing House of Cards completely, before they spaced out Kevin.
  4. And frown at web.whatsapp with its crazily mushrooming groups and the ‘Hello it is a beautiful Morning! You are super special! Go seize the day!” pings. Everyone gets the same message okay? So everyone is unique and special no? Aila! First of all, Mine was a terrible Sunday where i suffered the whole day with the knots in my stomach – Wisdom tooth as is expected is coming horizontally (that explains everything!) and I stare at a root canal thrown in as a bonus. Okay I love ‘Buy one- Get one Free’ But this is bumper bonus!  Plus the washing machine creates Madras Flash floods in the kitchen the moment I switch on. The service engineer cannot come because his stock of gasket has been eaten by rats! I swear i am not making up anything. While I lie groaning holding teeth, husband and daughter cook. Something positive did come out of the mayhem.
  5. And on cue son calls. He was always a nut, now he is a health nut. He starts off with a grandiose ‘I am disappointed with you’ Oh yeah that means I am top notch mom. But this time because we haven’t kickstarted our health fix. He then proceeds to give a dressing down to hubby and daughter at the skewed gender bender. They should be more self-sufficient! Have you ever been in liquid oxygen? The type that can not kill you yet wont let you die – same thing I feel – don’t know whether to be exhilarated or cry in agony.
  6. Finally to actual writing. Funnily, without fail, always my daughter takes out her ukulele and belts out top 50 chart busters in UK and USA too. Though the expenses of her music classes now seem to be well worth it – there are times i want to be like that uni-dimensionally angry poppa of secret-superstar – You know, Ukulele’s strings magically get &*^&&. But I know what hell will await me, if that were to happen. Did we forget that husband? He chooses that very moment to share something that happened in Tunisia or those seminary innocuous news bits but will be counted tomorrow as the footprints that changed the world. I nod, I also listen though sometimes, I just hear.
  7. Finally peace! But by now, I have quite forgotten what I was going to write. So i start the loop again – Now you know why I am an eternal Work In Progress? 
  8. Phew I have been writing for  the past 28 minutes continuously- Just whatever came to my mind.
  9. This is the unedited, first draft as the rules demand. I started at 10:30pm and at 11:00PM 😀
  10. So it is a Yes I Can – There is Hope and tomorrow is a better day! Amen
  11. Pens down